35mm, wisbech

A mural

Wisbech – the New Europe.

I took this photograph last week in Wisbech.  I had the Yashica T2 AF compact camera loaded with cheap Kodak ColorPlus 200 film (given to me with some prints from a photolab).  I do not like C41, so I had the film processed at my local photolab.  Only £2.50 per film, develop only.  I have so much Poundland film to use up!

I’ve written extensively before, that Wisbech is a very much a part of the New EU England, with a very high percentage of immigration from Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Russia (or ethnic Russian).  Immigrants have been flooding to the area for quite a few years now, often attracted initially by the work in local agriculture, food packing, and general farm work, or food factory work.

As an amateur photographer, I see this as history in the making.   Something very worthy of recording, and it is about people.  The above photograph is of someone else’s mural and creativity, although I tried to add to that by capturing with the surroundings of the old Wisbech wall, with all of it’s features.

The mural itself shows the River Danube, sneaking through SE Europe, with the flags of Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary added – the EU nations of SE Europe.  I don’t know if the artist has added any nationalist agendas to the mural.  Some of the names are in Cyrillic, maybe for the Bulgarians?The mural itself is painted on the rear of a “European” shop.  When it opens, I’ll have to pop in and find out more about it.

50p camera, flickr, Rants and discussions

Work of Art

Giants. Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. 50p camera project, Olympus XA, Kodak Tmax 400 film, Developed in LC29, scanned on Epson V500.

This post was inspired by Les.  He said that a lot of Flickr photographers don’t post a photo of a dog, unless it’s a work of art, but dogs are very much a part of many of our life’s (not a quote).

I’ve noticed on a few photography forums, that the majority of film photographers, just like digital photographers, do concentrate on quality.  Quality in terms of sharpness, exposure, depth, colour, focus, grain/noise, as well as composition.  Except for composition, most of these attributes are of technical origin.  That is good.  However, this can develop into the obsession held in modern digital photography, for technical perfection.  More megapixels, more sharpness, etc.

As photography enthusiasts, should we always obey the rules of technical perfection?  I’d argue, no.  As Les suggested, it could be more fundamental to photography, that we photograph life and our environment as we see it.  A record rather than a work of art.  That does not always mean a sharp perfect image – we don’t really see the world like that.  Our brains use our biological eyes like third rate scanners.  Much of what we think we see, has been filled in by the brain.  But we see signs, smiles, danger, sex, and … dogs (edit.  I nearly said and rock n’ roll).

In film, we are the alternative.  We have the opportunity to capture what is important, rather than to burst mode thousands of bytes of robot controlled perfection.

Film, 35mm, and scans, Landscape and buildings, Monochrome

Expired Commerce

Expired Commerce. Pentax SP500 Spotmatic. Super Takumar 55mm f/2 lens. Firstcall (Agfa Gevaert) 400S b/w film. Developed in R09. Scanned film on Epson V500.

I like this one.  I think Nita noticed the antiquity of the shredded advertisement posters first.  We were walking down one of Wisbech’s old alleyways – this leading from the river, to the old market, when she spotted what we all pass everyday without seeing.  I had to step back into the back doorway of a nightclub, in order to frame it through the Super Takumar 55mm lens.  Just after I pressed down the shutter release on the Pentax Spotmatic, I was pushed in the back by a cleaner exiting the club.

Monochrome, Rants and discussions, The East English Fens of East Anglia, Zenza Bronica SQ-A


Under the gate. Always a way through. Don’t make your own obstructions. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford Delta Pro 400 120 film. Developed in FirstCall R09.

I recently read an article written by … lets call him Ken.  Ken classified photographers (amateur, semi pro, and pro all falling into and across his classes).  In Ken’s opinion (he has a lot of opinion), the lowest grade photographers were the technophiles that obsessed about the technology of photography, without hardly ever taking any photos.  The best photographers, in Ken’s opinion, the top class, were the artists, that used creativity, and imagination to capture great images – using any equipment at hand.

I really don’t know what category I’d fall in, nor should I really be concerned.  However, I am increasingly concerned about my lack of creativity.  When I browse through the uploads of my highly valued Flickr friends, I’m often struck by the creativity of some of them.  While I struggle to find a subject to capture – they find it in their everyday life.  How do they do that?  An image should belong to imagination.

How do I bring creativity into my photography?  How do I break that pattern of thought, and reach through to this?  I think that should be my next focus.

Rants and discussions, Uncategorized, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Technology wins this time (or does it?)

My Bronica SQ-A , set up for portrait mode. All photos on this post taken with a neglected Sony A200 DSLR and Sony DT AF 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

It’s often suggested that amateur photographers tend to fall into two camps.  1) those that concentrate on the photograph, the image and the art.  The artist.  They understand the rules of light, composition, depth, texture, colours, lines, etc.  They focus (as photographers often do), on the image.  They often also use imagination and even concept.  To these artists, cameras and technology are mere tools – to be used and abused in the magical art of imagery.

As above

The other camp that photographers often fall into is 2) those that worship the technology of photography.  Call them nerds, geeks, or worse – so many photographers fall into this camp.  The DSLR nerd will read and digest every magazine benchmark review of the latest full frame sensor.  The film nerd will post photo after photo of their massive collection of classic cameras and lenses.  The nerd often fills a Flickr photostream with images of gear.  Indeed, they can be addicted to Gear.

As top photo

I probably belong to the Nerd category, but I wished that I belonged to the Artist category.  I’m aware of this, it’s a battle in my photography.  My Gear addiction these days is to film photographic equipment.  I couldn’t compete with the digital counterpart, I couldn’t invest that much money in my interest.  Maybe this is a part of what draws me to film or if you prefer, analog photography – cheap but extensive technology of years gone by.

As top photo

So I’m probably a nerd – but I wish I was an artist.  Here in this shoot though, I’ve allowed my nerdness to run riot.  It is dedicated to my Bronica medium format system camera.  Should I quote statistics, facts, dates, and manufacturing data?  No, I’m going to shy away this time.

Rants and discussions, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Atmosphere, Cultures, and Tackiness

Abandoned. Unloved. Baby in town centre. Spotted in a back alley of Wisbech. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 80mm f/2.8 lens. Agfa Rollei CN200 120 film. Developed in Rollei Digibase C-41 chemistry

I don’t just take photographs and share them digitally online.  I love looking at other people’s photographs online.  I’m a huge voyeur on Flickr.  I browse through Contacts uploads, and through the streams of the so-called Flickr communities, on an average of more than daily.  Over the past year, I’ve also finally got the Flickr thing that I long missed.  You should add absolutely loads of contacts.  That way your stream is enriched.

I’ve said this before.  I have no formal training in photography nor art.  I come from a rural working class background of  “I don’t anything about art, but I know what I like”.  With online social photo-sharing sites like Flickr, the art just flashes across in front of you, as people all over the World upload their work.  You like what you like – it’s not going to be the same for you as for me.  It’s like people’s art – we all share, whether in the UK, China, India, USA, Japan, or Russia.  Each contact sees the World in their way, captures it through a lens and shares.  I can see regional trends.  Beautiful medium format portraits from Russia and Eastern Europe.  Photographs from young people in China, of colours, girls, smiles, and huge cameras.  Dusty, gritty film photographs of the tacky side of Mid West Life in the USA.  People of every shape and size at festivals in India.  Fine art and conceptual photography from Europe.

Each is a window into another person’s experience of Life on this World.  I love that.  I want my photography to grow in that direction.  I want people to see what I see, in my corner of the planet – tackiness and all.

Rants and discussions


Little Scottish Feet. Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Taken with Olympus XA-2 compact 35mm camera loaded with AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 film from Poundland.

What Value does a photograph have to you?

Case 1.  The Film.

  1. Carefully load a 120 roll film into my Lubitel 166B TLR camera.
  2. Load the shutter.
  3. Use the Sunny 16 rule to evaluate the light conditions in relation to your loaded film speed.
  4. Set the aperture accordingly.
  5. Set the shutter speed accordingly.
  6. Using a zone focus technique, set the estimated distance between yourself and the subject on the lens
  7. Carefully compose the image, check background.  You are shooting in b&w.  Imagine what it looks like in monochrome.
  8. Release the shutter.
  9. Wind on the film to the next frame, looking at the rear red window.  Finish the film off, frame by frame.
  10. Prepare your developing chemicals, mixing them to the correct solutions and dilutions, in seperate jugs – developer, stopper, fixer, rinses.  Bring them all to as near to 20C as practical.
  11. Carefully remove the fully exposed roll of film from the camera
  12. Place the film roll in a film changing bag, along with a Paterson tank.
  13. Placing your hands carefully inside through the double elasticated holes, with great care (and some difficulty), blindly remove the film from it’s spindle and paper backing, then without damaging it, load it onto the tank spool.  After all of this blind fumbling and cursing, place the loaded spool into the tank, and replace lid.  Remove from changing bag.
  14. Pour the developer into the tank.  Invert / agitate for ten seconds, every minute.  For HP5 in Microphen at a stock to water dilution of 1:3, this may go on for 23 minutes.
  15. Pour out the developer, pour in the stop wash.  Agitate, pour back into jug.
  16. Pour in the fixer.  Treat as with developer for another 3 – 5 minutes.  Pour back into jug.
  17. Start the rinsing process – lots of inversions, some water changes, up to 10 minutes.  Last rinse, use a wetting agent, and soak / agitate for two minutes.
  18. Remove the film, carefully, and squeegee.  Hang up to dry and straighten.
  19. Several hours later, cut negatives into three image strips, digitally scan.  Save images on computer
  20. Using software, digitally retouch if required, for example, excessive dust or hair.
  21. Upload optimised version to Flickr.

Case 2.  The Digital.

  1. Check the camera is on an auto-exposure setting such as AV.
  2. Carefully compose the image.
  3. Press the shutter button.  Look at image on camera display, or take more.
  4. Remove memory card and put it into computer.  Save images on computer
  5. Using software, digitally enhance and optimise.
  6. Upload to Flickr.

Now, it’s clearly much easier to use Case 2.  It gives fast, great results.  Fast, instant gratification.  Some modern p&s cameras and mobile phone cameras will even edit the image and upload it straight to Flickr or Instagram.  It’s how our modern consumer sriven society works.  Fast results with minimal effort.  Anyone can be a photographer.  I’m really not knocking digital – I do shoot in digital.

But which has greater value?  Maybe I’m getting too long in the tooth, a grumpy old git, but I think that work has a value.  An awful lot more of me goes into Case 1.  By me, I’m referring to my work.  William Morris felt this way about mass production in the factories of Victorian 19th Century England and Wales.  He argued for the return of the craftsman that put him or herself into their simple, but hand made products in the cottage.  He felt that factories and Capitalism alienated the worker from their produce.  He went so far to suggest that Art was dead until a revolution replaced Capitalism.

I’m not going to go that far, but I’ll finish with one question.  What is the value of your photography?

Internet, Landscape and buildings, Rants and discussions

Be yourself

My first popular Flickr image.  nearly 46,000 views, but is it good photography?

My first popular Flickr image. nearly 46,000 views, but is it good photography?

It’s easy with a website like Flickr, to obsess about popularity, likes, views.  I guess we all want to be successful, ‘good’ in the eyes of our peers, or how we think our peers see our photography.  I’m a Flickerite – been a member since before Yahoo bought it, I pay my bi-annual subscription fee.  Indeed I have over 4,300 images on that one share site, so I guess it gives me that feedback, and a place to share – don’t we like to share?

The above photo of a theme park ride, is my highest scoring image on Flickr.  My stats tell me that it has been viewed 45,878 times by others.  Meanwhile 16 people have ‘faved it’.  What do I think of it?  It’s tidy, fairly composed, nice exposure I guess.  But I don’t think it is particularly special.  It’s just a sodding theme park ride, nothing imaginative.  I think that I even snapped (yes snapped) it from a “photo point” in the carefully laid out theme park in Florida – as no doubt many many others have since and before.  The camera was nothing special neither – a compact point and shoot digital camera.  This was 2005 when digital cameras were just starting to dominate 35mm film.  But sadly, it’s my most viewed image out of my 4,300 meagre offerings.  I dare say that it’s been reposted elsewhere, and some of it’s hits are coming from redirected views.

The message is don’t always measure your photos by how many views they receive on line.  Don’t cater to that sort of popularity.  Make your art yours.

A posed and planned out photo with the girlfriend. A mere 123 views, but I like it.